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Mercedes B-class: Test Drive Review

Date: 19 October 2011   |   Author: Guy Bird

Category: Mini-MPV
P11D price: £22,005
Key rival: Audi A3 Sportback

The previous B-class was a curious fish. Billed as a 'Sports Tourer', it was nothing of the sort in looks or driving ability - a so-so-shape with a detached high-up driving position that felt more like sitting atop a lawnmower than within a car.

Nonetheless some upmarket families and older generations were drawn to it - its status as the only prestige compact MPV surely helping - and in its best year it sold 5800 in the UK.

With the second-generation B-class due in spring 2012, Mercedes has ambitions of 7500 sales in a full year through a new design that aims to retain those older existing customers while gaining younger conquest customers too. Will it work? In terms of exterior proportions the shape is similar, if a bit lower, but its fussy side-feature lines don't really hide the fact that this is still a boxy car.

The interior is a different story and a real triumph of style, function and quality. A lower seating point rectifies the previous driver position problems while jet engine-style cool-touch quality metal-coated air vents dominate the inviting dashboard. With an iPad-alike fixed screen above horizontal dash inserts like silver honeycomb, accented by ambient strip lighting, this interior feels every inch a prestige contemporary space. Rear headroom is fine but taller people's legs may suffer unless the seatback tray table is up. The boot is slightly smaller than the old model (488 vs. 504 litres like for like), but seats fold virtually flat to create a useful 1545 litres. Annoyingly, slide and recline rear seats and variable boot height functionality is part of a £600 option.

On the plus side, the B-class does get stand-out standard safety and eco kit, headlined by Collision Prevention Assist, which reduces rear-end shunts or their severity, and new engines all with stop/start.

Of the two 1.6-litre petrols (122hp B180 and 156hp B200) and two 1.8 diesels (109hp B180 CDI and 136hp B200 CDI), the pick of the bunch from a comfort, power and tax balance is probably the six-speed manual B180 CDI SE. The steering is only okay but the ride is way better than the lowered Sport models with bigger (but thinner-tyred) wheels, while the CDI SE's 115g/km CO2 rating and 64.2mpg promise great running costs. Also worth a look for fleets is the new dual-clutch automatic gearbox with paddleshift, which on the new B-class now records the same or very similar mpg and CO2 levels as its manual equivalents.

In summary, the new B is way better than the old B (not hard), but will its still-new styling attract the younger, sportier folk Mercedes is after? I'm not so sure.

Mercedes B180 CDI SE
P11D price£22,005
Model price range£21,290-£26,160
Fuel consumption64.2mpg
CO2 (tax) 115g/km (13%)
BIK 20/40% per month£48/£95
Service interval2yrs/15,000mls
InsuranceGroup 17E*
Warranty3yrs/Unlimited mls
Boot space (min/max)488/1545 litres
Engine size/power1796cc/109hp
Top speed/0-62mph118 mph/10.9secs
On sale March 2012
VerdictSo-so exterior, but
great interior and
good engines


So-so exterior, but great interior and good engines